Answer Me franchise is known for two things: first — being realistic and down to earth, bringing a sense of nostalgia, being an emotional roller coaster and having awesome moments with so much heart that you can’t help but love the characters and those moments. The second is the infamous mystery about who is going to end up with the heroine. So the enjoyment and appreciation of this show depends on your preference. If you are annoyed by this mystery, and don’t want to give Answer Me 1988 a chance, it’s going to be a great loss as the show is brilliant. Yes, it has that husband-mystery game but the main focus is family and friendship. And of course, the moments!
There is nothing major from a plot perspective. We see the lives of different families through the years, with 1988 being the starting point. Slice of life and coming of age remain the major themes as we see their personal lives with background of various events that happened during that era, be it political, cultural, social or anything related to films or music or television. I’m sure that Korean audience would enjoy these elements and pop culture references more than we international audience does. But nevertheless, it’s enjoyable and with some help from history knowledge, one can get the gist.
As I’ve mentioned before, the crème de la crème of Answer Me 1988 is the beautifully drawn relationships of all the families. They are each different from each other, with their own share of happiness and sorrow. Very realistic and often bringing tears to our eyes. The relationship between different families is also amazing. They know each other so well, especially the friendship between the moms. The warmth and affection and heart tugging moments are in abundance throughout the show. The friendship between the young ones is also charmingly shown. The feel of the 80s is spot on — the clothes, hair, songs, movies, trends, sets and fashion. The beauty of simplicity of life in that era is deftly portrayed.
Coming to the romance part, the drama plays with viewers’ hearts by bringing its old game again — who is going to be the husband? I was rooting for one pair but as the show progressed, my interest dwindled as in order to maintain the mystery, we never got any solid romantic relationship between anyone. And so, when we did find out about the end game, it didn’t elicit any emotion from me and I was not convinced about it. In fact, the better romance and couple came from other pairs in the drama whose journey we witnessed from start to finish. Another complaint I have is the length, which was unnecessarily long. The drama could have used more editing.
Although each and every character made an impact, there were few who I loved more than others. First is of course Ra Mi Ran. She is such an awesome character and I don’t have enough words to praise Ra Mi Ran‘s acting. Then there is Jung Hwan. He won my heart with his I-don’t-care-but-I-totally-care-for-everyone attitude. I also loved the relationship between Bo Ra and her father, which made me teary eyed n number of times.
There is this consistency in the drama where nobody is what they might seem at the first glance. Just like in real life. The layers are peeled off gradually and it’s great to understand them completely and see them grow. The music of the show is another highlight, encompassing popular songs as well as songs of its own. It’s also like a knowledge book where we get to know about the different events and things that dominated the 80s and 90s in South Korea. There is a lot of great humour in the drama, along with nostalgia and emotional substance.
Answer Me 1988 is full of fabulous acting talents. All the parents are great, acting so naturally. Ra Mi Ran, Kim Sung Kyun, Sung Dong Il, Lee Il Hwa, Choi Moo Sung, Kim Sun Young — they are so warm and endearing and pitch-perfect. The younger cast also gives superlative performance, especially Ryu Joon Yul, Park Bo Gum, Ryu Hye Young, Go Kyung Pyo and Lee Dong Hwi, who is very funny. After the apprehensions everyone had for her casting, Hye Ri is likeable in her role and gives a good performance.
At the end, Answer Me 1988 is another feather in the cap of this franchise. It is warm, poignant, lovely and makes us earn for those simpler times.
My Rating: 9 out of 10